1. Christopher and I 2. Sara, Tim, Ryan (cousin) and I driving to LA
“Some things are hard to write about. After something happens to you, you go to write it down, and either you over dramatize it, or underplay it, exaggerate the wrong parts or ignore the important ones. At any rate, you never write it quite the way you want to.” -Sylvia Path
It’s been over a week. Ten days to be exact. And it seems like a lifetime. I’ve attempted to write about my trip to Chile several times with the desire to write down every detail, thought, emotion and memory. So I decided to finally escape to Starbucks for an afternoon (turned into evening) to type away at my computer and write this entry. Here it goes...
I don’t think I ever fully prepared myself for the trip. Many team members told me how they went through extensive prayer and waited for God to tell them, “Go.” I, on the other hand, received a text message from my cousin Ryan two months before I boarded a plane to Santiago. The text asked if I wanted to take part in a mission trip to Chile. One phone call to my mother and three minutes later, I responded, “Count me in!” I don’t like to pass up any opportunity to travel if I can help it and over the years I’ve always had the desire to go on a mission trip.
I’ve said this a lot, but I can’t believe Chile is now just a memory. I miss it every day-- the people from Young Life, Team Transparent, Jorge, Lucia, Mamey, our bus driver. Christopher, Sebastian and Carlos. The view of the Andes Mountains. The air being cold enough to see your breathe. Everything.
I also miss just being away from home. I have this insane dream to live out of a suitcase for the rest of my life, being in one place one day and another place entirely the next. All while having the opportunity to write, write, write. This insanity always makes me feel out of place when I’m surrounded by many female friends who are constantly talking about their desire to get married and settle down. My friend Allison (a traveler) messaged me the other day about the possibility of joining her in Ecuador by applying for an unpaid travel writing position. If I had the money or enough time to get everything in order, I’d go in a heart beat. I emailed her boss, who said they offer unpaid internships all year round. So it’s definitely something that could happen in the future. We’ll see.
God has placed so many amazing people in my life. From the people who supported me to go on this trip to my mother, who has been nothing but supportive, to every single person I came in contact with in Chile. If anyone from Team Transparent happens to read this: I love you. Seriously. And I’m blessed to have such an awesome brother/sister.
Now, to get to the trip. I broke it down by day. Enjoy.
Day One- Sunday, July 18th
I was antsy about my luggage-- did I forget anything? Was it overweight? Did I pack too much? All for nothing as it turned out to be 0.4 pounds shy of the weight limit. Perfection. We crammed two cars full of suitcases and the nine of us set off for Los Angeles. The drive usually takes about six hours, but we stopped at Carls Jr. twice. So it took us a bit little longer. When we arrived in Cali we were greeted by members of an international church, where we stayed our first night, and the LA team members. That night we consumed In N’ Out and dug our toes into the sands of Venice Beach.
Day Two- Monday, July 19th
Well we hopped on a plane at LAX. Thirteen hours later we found ourselves in Santiago, Chile.
Day Three- Tuesday, July 20th
We boarded a bus with no heater. The windows were curtained and tassles hung from the ceiling. Halfway between our destination and the airport, the bus broke down. All 23 of us were cold and tired. We finally arrived at a school in the city of Rancagua, our home for the next ten days. Guys in one room, girls in another. After a much-needed nap, the girls took a cold shower. That night we found ourselves at a dinner with the mayor of Rancagua, a religious man who was up for re-election and used us as publicity. This was a blessing as it resulted in the donation of heaters and mattresses.
Day Four- Wednesday, July 21st
It was a rainy day that began with bread and juice for breakfast. This was our first day of work. The team worked on a total of three houses. I stayed at the first. Patrick and I cut styrafoam to insulate the house. The national Chilean news station showed up and another news station. Crazy stuff. I hope it helps Younglife’s ministry. After lunch I played with 8-year-old Christopher most of the time, and hammered nails into boards the rest of the time. Christopher kept asking me to draw him tigers, horses, people, sheep, donkeys and I don’t know what all else. I’m no artist, but did my best and he seemed content. When I couldn’t understand him, he did his best to describe things. I just looked down at him and smiled and he’d smile back. He also rode his bike, nearly falling into a pile of rubbish and nearly giving me a heart attack. He also had me swing him around and we played with a beach volleyball that didn’t last as it popped on bobbed-wire. I received two oranges throughout the day, one from Christopher and the other from his mother- both gifts. We were offered tea. The day ended with a big hug and kiss on the cheek from Christopher. I miss him.
Day Five- Thursday, July 22nd
In the morning we hosted a retreat for Younglife, the organization we partnered with (if I neglected to mention that earlier). This included a few messages, games and worship. We received many stares from kids at the lunch table, and you’d have sworn they were making fun of us. We were assured they weren’t. I want to learn Spanish via Rosetta Stone as soon as possible. Later that afternoon Jorge invited the girls to his home so we could take a hot shower. It was the best shower. Ever. With a view of the Andes Mountains outside the window. We met his wife and three kids. He has the most beautiful family. Jorge is exactly what a Godly man should be. There aren't many of those in my life and I can't tell you how much I look up to him. You could just see Jesus in everything he did. His youngest boy has the most beautiful laugh I’ve ever heard. It sounds something like a sheep and you’d swear it impossible for one to laugh this way. But he does. I’m certain it’s nothing short of a gift from God. That night part of the team put on worship. After which we snacked on what tasted like Cap’n Crunch cereal. Oddly delicious.
Day Six- Friday, July 23rd
We visited the emergency village, home to the earthquake victims. Here they live in homes that sit along a muddy road and are covered by plastic. We walked the roads, inviting people to the block party and praying with individual families. Across the street you can see the damage of the apartments where they once lived. Since the earthquake people have stolen things left behind, all to sell for money. We played with the kids- soccer, basketball and the like. Patrick made balloon animals. We had a candy toss. Later we put on a “Everything by Lifehouse” skit and shared testimonies. The people seemed to be genuinely happy we were there.
Day Seven- Saturday, July 24th
The team was split in three groups- two to insulate homes at separate locations and another to haul bricks from a center destroyed in the earthquake. I was on the brick team, along with the majority of the Arizona team. We moved bricks, or threw them really, along the side of the road. That way a truck could come by and carry them away. We used sledge hammers and tore down walls. We sang “My Girl.” It rained. Maria, an elderly woman down the street, donated a wheel barrel and shovel. We formed a line to get things done faster part of the time. This day was one of my favorites. We all bonded. Later we held another block party. At each block party on the trip, Jorge presented autographed jerseys worn by the Chilean soccer team during the World Cup. The kids were able to try them on and have their picture taken. They went wild with excitement. We played soccer and lost to kids half our age. We’re Americans, what can we say.
Day Eight- Sunday, July 25th
A much needed day of rest. We played cards in the morning- Scum and Nerts. We later went to another community and held a block party. A girl named Anna Maria drug me around to meet her family part of the time. I can’t tell you how thankful I was for the L.A. team and them constantly translating for us. We talked to a lot of the teenagers there. A 19-year-old boy asked me if I wanted a Chilean boyfriend. I responded, “No, thank you.” That night we had separate meetings- L.A. and Phoenix- to see how the trip was going so far. We all agreed that we were part of an amazing experience and team.
Day Nine- Monday, July 26th
We put on a Vacation Bible School for orphans. I worked with the five to nine-year-olds. I played soccer and basketball with Carlos, and made balloons with Sebastian. We colored, we sang, we laughed. Sebastian gave Alma and I about five hugs goodbye. He said he’d never forget us and nearly cried when he had to go. He also did a Shakira dance which we have on video. We also spoke with 15-year-old Phillip and he told us his story. I’m sure if I knew half of the things these kids went through, I’d cry uncontrollably. This was another favorite day for me. We took all 50+ kids and teens to lunch with us at Jumbo. This is where our team ate lunch and dinner the entire trip. Needless to say we were tired of rice and chicken after nine days. Our servers loved us and made french fries twice. The last few days we were able to have the good dessert- pineapple cake and other things. They gave a short speech our last night- thanking us. Did I mentioned we were surrounded by loving people the entire trip? So blessed.
Day Ten- Tuesday, July 27th
We walked downtown this day and went to the shops. I consumed a delicious, caramel-filled churro. We went to the mayor’s office where we took a group photo and were on the news... again. Later we went to another school and hosted a block party. The girls thought Hugo looked like Taylor Lautner and wanted all our autographs. We also received several kisses on the cheek, hugs and requests for photographs. That night we celebrated Mamey’s birthday- he turned 18. He’s with Younglife Chile and hung out with us the entire trip. He cried when he received a jersey worn by a player from his favorite team. So awesome.
Day Eleven- Wednesday, July 28th
Our last, full day in Chile. The mayor rented the team a charter bus to drive to a town called Sewell, located in the Andes. Apparently it’s a big deal to go the Andes, even if you live in Chile. Kids aren’t allowed to go and it takes weeks for anyone to get permission. There’s an active copper mine in the Andes and the road has buses taking workers to and from town every day. Sewell is an abandoned town where our tour guide once lived and went to school. The government put a ban on people living there because all the chemicals from the mine. We went to a museum and ate lunch at a cafeteria full of miners in orange suits. It was a beautiful day. Later that evening some team members went to downtown Rancagua, but I stayed behind to rest and play cards with half of the team. Many of us started getting sick. I was one of them. I’m still coughing as I type this, but no matter. That night was our last dinner at Jumbo. The mayor came to say goodbye and we met as a team for several hours to reflect back on our trip. I was on the verge of tears, but did my best to hold them in. I’ll get to what all I was thinking that night on a second post.
Day Twelve- Thursday, July 29th
We left the school by 7 a.m. and drove two miles north to Santiago. We toured the city, parts of it reminding me of Paris. So pretty. We had lunch and left for the airport. It was goodbye, Chile. In thirteen hours we’d be home to the United States. I slept most of the plane ride. We had another layover in Peru. Ashlyn and I shared journal entries and wrote down little details of the trip, like Tim “The Wall” Jennings, Sara’s Spanish voice and the like. We both were going to miss our journal nights. Each night of the trip the girls would journal before we went to sleep and shares laughs about a few of Ashlyn’s embarrassing moments. Good, good times.
Day Thirteen- Friday, July 30th
The drive back to Phoenix took about eight or nine hours. We were all in desperate want and need of a shower. All of us were exhausted, most of us sick. We said goodbye to the L.A. team and ate McDonalds for breakfast. I arrived home to a half empty house. Pictures off walls, furniture sold and gone. This, mixed emotions and a warm shower left me in happy and sad tears. We leave the 26th of this month to Tennessee. I can’t tell you how much I’m going to miss the Arizona team. But we’ll be back to Chile (or somewhere) next year. Guaranteed.
Note: I'll probably be editing/updating this over the next few days. Expect another entry about Chile in the next few days. More pictures coming soon.